Melissa Lopez, a resident of Ontario, Canada, took her 10-year-old daughter to the dentist and was informed that the child had a mouthful of cavities. Lopez was told to bring her daughter back in soon to have fillings done.
But Lopez wanted a second opinion so she switched dentists. The second dentist found fewer cavities.
In the meantime, the first dentist reported Lopez to child protective services for possible "oral neglect."
When the authorities investigated, they discovered that Lopez was not an abusive mom but rather a skeptical consumer of dentistry. So the authorities quickly dropped the investigation and closed the case.
Unfortunately, child protective services is refusing to remove the investigation file from the books. According to the CBC:
[T]he file, Lopez claims she was told, is permanent.
"It will always be there, 10, 15, 20 years from now," she said. "I'm red-flagged, I've been marked, and there's no reason for this to have happened."
The agency says it retains files for "accountability." But if the charges were found meritless, why should they remain a permanent part of Lopez's record?
Under Canadian law, individuals may petition to have criminal charges erased from their records starting five months after the charges are withdrawn, dismissed, or the suspect is acquitted. Yet child protective services will mark Lopez for life. As the CBC reports:
Andrea Maenza, communications co-ordinator for the Durham Children's Aid Society, said that [its] protocol is mandated by the Child and Family Services Act…. [She] stressed that there aren't necessarily negative implications from having a permanent case file, since all the information about the interaction is included, including why it was closed.
"An individual can ask for a copy of their record to know exactly what it says," she added.
I wouldn't feel better knowing that I could ask for a file about myself and find it filled with baseless accusations that were eventually cleared. I'd feel better if anyone who asked about me was told, "Sorry, this person doesn't have a record."
As for the dentist, the folks at child protective services say he did the right thing by alerting them to the mom's possible negligence. Never mind the damage done to the mother's reputation.
Something has gone very wrong in the law when an innocent family can be dragged through the mud like this.